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Middle East
Israel to open Gaza crossings
The decision came after a request from Egypt. Israel also lifts curfew on Nilin.
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2008 05:21 GMT
The truce gives Palestinians a chance to obtain much needed supplies [GALLO/GETTY]

Israel has agreed to an unusual request from Egypt to reopen border crossings with Gaza, officials say.

The passages, which were closed after a mortar shell was fired on Monday, are expected to open around midday on Tuesday, Israeli military officials said.

Egypt's request appeared to be an attempt to prod forward a three-week-old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza.

The truce was designed in part to ease Israel's crushing blockade of the coastal strip.

In agreeing to reopen the passages, Israel suggested it might stop automatically closing the crossings in response to every truce violation.

About a dozen rocket attacks have been fired into Israel over the last three weeks, but none have caused serious injuries.

Crossings were closed for about half that time.

Nilin breathes

In another development, Israel lifted a curfew on the Palestinian village of Nilin, a military spokeswoman said.

Ayman Nafi, the town's mayor, confirmed that the soldiers had pulled out.

"We woke up and luckily we did not see their presence," he said early on Tuesday.

"Now we are inspecting the damage they have inflicted on us."

The curfew, which prevented residents from leaving their homes or traveling in and out of the village, was imposed on Friday after violent protests erupted over Israel's West Bank separation barrier.

Israel said the barrier helps keep out Palestinian suicide bombers, who have killed nearly 300 Israelis since the intifada, or uprising, began in 2000.

But the network of fences and concrete barricades also loops around Jewish settlement blocs, cutting off some West Bank villages from their farmland.

Four years ago this week, the International Court in The Hague ruled that construction of the 720-km barrier on occupied land was illegal. The UN said Israel has ignored that non-binding ruling.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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